Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Interactivity Restoration

In the introduction of the book "Design for the Social Web" Joshua Porter has a brilliant opening with a quote by Douglas Adams, talking about getting back to connectedness:

“During [the twentieth] century we have for the first time been dominated by non-interactive forms of entertainment: cinema, radio, recorded music and television. Before they came along all entertainment was interactive: theater, music, sport—the performers and audience were there together, and even a respectfully silent audience exerted a powerful shaping presence on the unfolding of whatever drama they were there for. We didn’t need a special word for interactivity in the same way that we don’t (yet) need a special word for people with only one head.

I expect that history will show “normal” mainstream twentieth century media to be the aberration in all this. ‘Please, miss, you mean they could only just sit there and watch? They couldn’t do anything? Didn’t everybody feel terribly isolated or alienated or ignored?’

“Yes, child, that’s why they all went mad. Before the Restoration.”

“What was the Restoration again, please, miss?”

“The end of the twentieth century, child. When we started to get interactivity back.”

Very interesting and striking thought. Something we see often in evolution, new technology coming into the picture, adding and extending to our possibilities, sometimes first in a crippled way until a new wave of technology catches up with the past, restores in an even enhanced form.

On a side note, the book is very good, a fresh school usability approach looking into and capitalizing from the most recent web 2.0 hits.

The next new bubble

Back in 2000 when I heard for the first time of economic bubbles the dot com bubble was bursting out. At that time the theory remained in the informational side of things for me. Some years later after seeing the real state bubble boom and naturally later on burst things started clicking in more into the experience field of things.

Since I saw the housing bubble burst I started wondering what the next bubble would be. Now, if I had to bet, I'd have no doubt in my mind. The next bubble is about "alternative" energy sources. With gas prices going up insanely (which does not worry me as I started carpooling and my gas price reduced to one third of its original value) the bubble is already booming. Next thing we know, all those alternative sources will become sustainable, investment on those will grow, people and companies will bet on different ones, some will make it ... the old gold story, those who build infrastructure: products and services around alternative energy sources will hit the pot.
Now that I was googling for something related to this subject I found an article stating this same thing (in a much nicer way).

My next thought is that bubbles are a natural phenomenon that happens due to network characteristics and they sure have much more global properties beyond economy (as in social networks, neural networks, etc).

It was a very strong experience to watch the housing market offer and demand act in the local area of Temecula, California for the last year or so. The first thing you could observe was the obvious, houses with high prices were not selling as there is more offer than demand. But, later on, to my great surprise, we started seeing that houses that were priced under market would experience a process like a silent auction until they would reach very close to market price.

I used to have this illusion that bubbles were artificially created and controlled by a few people, but now I think of them as self-regulated networks presenting common emergent properties.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

PenguinClub the kid's second life

Since the very first moment my daughter Nicole (almost 8) started being a Penguin in Club Penguin we spiraled into the most addictive craziness I've ever seen in her short life. Being this her first experience of having virtual friends, virtual pets, virtual money that she has to earn and decide how to spend (mostly on her pets), a whole virtual world, she's totally hooked and enjoying it incredibly (even a lil'too much if you ask me :|).

In the words of her older brother Chris: "Welcome to the world of online gaming".

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Scrum works with ScrumWorks

We recently decided to adpot a new flavor of agile methodology called Scrum.

We choose scrum as we are a small team with rapidly changing requirements and in need of involving the product owner heavily in our decisions. The idea is that by using this methodology we will be running all the time (in the characteristic sprints) instead of being in the relaxed until we get to a deadline mode ;)

There were two tools that we evaluated: Scrumworks and scrumdesk. We liked scrumdesk a lot, graphically it is superior, although it ended up not being that easy to use. Support was superb (thanks Dusan!). The only thing that ended up using Scrumworks was that in Scrumdesk the tasks inside stories could not be assigned to each particular resource in the team, they needed to be checked out by the person that would take care of it. I guess the reason we couldn't use it is because we were not doing 100% scrum, and our minimum need for planning was already too much for the tool.

Scrumworks was easier to use, although not nicer. It provided a little more flexibility in assigning resources. If it would have been all my choice, I probably would have adjusted more to the original methodology idea and would have sticked with Scrumdesk.

I was very surprised that we could not find an ASP solution. Both solutions we checked were installable solutions. I guess if you're a small company it might be harder to provide ASP trials and trat might be a reason for this lack of web tools in the area.

Deposit checks is now a breeze

I was nicely surprised last week when went to deposit couple checks in an Bank of America ATM. I was looking for the envelope and asking my husband if he had a calculator or something to do the addition of the checks values and he said: you don't need that! just insert the checks one by one and they'll be scanned. And so it was, I inserted the first check and got a very clean scan image in the ATM screen. It showed the amount in the check in the screen and it asked for confirmation. Same thing with the other two checks and boom! I was done!

It's one of these areas that didn't change much in a long time. Now, with a simple idea and a little more technology it is totally improved for all the parts. The client is surely happy with no envelope and no math involved. The bank and the client have all the security of their exact check being already in the system. Although I could not see the deposit scan online, I guess that will come soon.

I just learned in the web that other banks, such as Wells Fargo, are doing it too. While I was reading and I found out there's one company that allows to scan checks and "deposit" them through the internet ... That sounds interesting too, although I'm not sure security wise this is ready for prime time.

Talking about security, Bank of America also has an innovation in the area of website login securtity. They require the login id first. Then, they send you to a second screen that will bring a picture that is associated with the login account. If you recognize the picture you know you can login safely as there's no phishing involed. If you don't see your pic something is wrong, do not login. So, for a while until we get to a more personalized level of phishing this works great.